Carroll County Times

John Culleton: GOP needs to work on party issues

Both national political parties face election dilemmas, but the key issues center on the Republicans.

That party lost the Electoral College vote, lost some Senate seats that they ought to have won and actually had fewer votes overall for their candidates for the House of Representatives than their Democratic adversaries.

Several states in the Midwest have split personalities. They vote Republican for the gubernatorial and state legislature contests, but Democratic for the presidential ballots.

Many state Republican parties took advantage of this dichotomy by using their state government control to gerrymander the congressional districts to favor their party. This gives the Republicans a built-in advantage in the House at least until the next census in 2020. So several states with this split political personality are considering a change to their method of selecting Electoral College votes. They contemplate moving from winner-take-all to separate elections for the Electoral College in each House district.

The same gerrymandering that gave them a majority in the House could give them extra votes in the Electoral College. Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin are candidates for this change.

It is only fair to note that in Maryland, where Democrats control both the governorship and the legislature, a similar gerrymander reduced the number of Republicans in the Maryland delegation to the House of Representatives from two to one. But there were few opportunities nationwide for pro-Democratic gerrymanders.

Various forms of voter suppression were attempted in the 2012 election by Republican legislators and governors. As was frankly stated by a Pennsylvania official, such tactics as photo ID requirements were perceived as ways to discourage voting by minority populations such as African Americans, Hispanics, college students and the like. In Texas, a gun carry permit was considered adequate ID, but a state-issued college ID was not.

In addition, in states like Florida, early voting was curtailed and eliminated on the Sunday before the election when African American churches customarily organized bus trips for their members, the so-called "souls to the polls" effort. The combination of successful court challenges and a significant voter backlash largely nullified these efforts at suppression.

In Florida, voters stood in line up to four hours to exercise their right to vote.

Increasingly, right wing zealots have forced the Republican candidates at all levels to adopt extreme policies, particularly on social issues. As a result of these stances and the aforementioned voter suppression, large and important voter blocs, including African Americans, Hispanics, Asiatics and single women, have lined up behind Democratic candidates.

Committees of Republican pols are meeting to devise strategies to counter this trend. A handful of Hispanic officeholders like Marco Rubio have been spotlighted. But the targeted populations are smart enough to see through this tokenism.

There are active discussions already about what Republican standard bearer can face off against either Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden, both strong vote-getters. But as Colin Powell, one of the few remaining wise heads in the Republican leadership, has pointed out, the 2016 election will turn on policies more than personalities. If the Republican candidate is forced into untenable positions, as was Mitt Romney, he or she is doomed.

Of greater interest to me is the Congressional election of 2014. If the Democrats take over the House, or come close, more of President Obama's long range agenda will be realized. If he has success in his second term, 2016 will be a cakewalk for the Democrats.

In any case the birther element in the Republican Party, now running about 60 percent, will have to find another comforting falsehood to cling to. Where are those black U.N. helicopters when the party really needs them?